UFC fighters being robbed of their fair share

Bobby Curran
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Friday - February 06, 2009
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Hawaii’s MMA fans were sorely disappointed last Saturday when Hilo’s B.J. Penn was dismantled by Canada’s Georges St. Pierre in a UFC title bout. Billed by UFC president Dana White as “our biggest event ever,” the fight drew roughly 17,000 fans and a huge pay per view audience. A conservative estimate of the fight’s revenue would be north of $40 million.

According to published reports, the two fighters received a total of $525,000, leaving $39,475,000 for the organizers. The gold standard for the revenue split in other professional sports is 60 percent for athletes, 40 percent for owners. This is the standard in professional football and baseball, which are both governed by collective bargaining agreements.

There is no CBA in UFC bouts. As best as I can tell, the revenue divide in the UFC is more like 1 percent athletes, 99 percent owners. In other fields of endeavor, this would get the owners investigated and possibly indicted. B.J Penn received $125,000 for losing the fight. Using the standard formula, he was robbed of approximately $11.875 million in this fight alone. Consider that the De La Hoya-Pacquiao disbursement is estimated to be around $48 million combined.

The problem is that UFC has hooked up many fighters to multiple fight deals for small money, and they have no real competition. When questioned, Dana White says he’s pulled these athletes out of the gutter, and they’re better off than they would be otherwise. But that’s a poor argument. Most of the best athletes in every sport have come from impoverished backgrounds. Secondly, he states that he could find an unlimited supply of fighters who’d happily compete for $1,000. Sure, but I’ve seen some of these amateur fights, and they are horrible. No skills and no stamina, and nothing anyone would shell out $59.95 for on PPV. Until some real competition arrives, or perhaps a fighter like Fedor Emelianenko can surge to a Tiger-like popularity, will the UFC chokehold be broken. It will inevitably happen, but too late for those who have challenged the UFC like Fedor and Tito Ortiz.

* Another Super Bowl come and gone, and the game itself was again better than the commercials. The contest was fairly ordinary for three-plus quarters, excepting James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return for a touch-down at the end of the half. But the fourth quarter fireworks puts Super Bowl 43 into the upper tier. In the case of Kurt Warner, his final drive culminating in a touchdown that gave the Cardinals the lead with 2:40 remaining cements his credentials as a likely member of the Hall of Fame. And Larry Fitzgerald proved once again that he’s one of the NFL’s best.

On the Pittsburgh side, Ben Roethlisberger simply did what he’s been doing for his five years in the league: making plays and winning games. Roethlisberger does not have the numbers of some of his peers, but he does have 18 fourth-quarter comeback wins. His passes to Santonio Holmes were vintage Big Ben - under pressure, uncannily accurate, the first one dropped, the second one the game winner. He seems a remarkable representative of the city of Pittsburgh: tough, crusty and not at all pretty, but still standing proud and unfazed.

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